May it Please the Palate: "If It's Monday, this must be Grand Rapids. And Mt. Pleasant."

Our firm has hit upon the bright idea of litigating state wide. This means that I often find myself on the road, in my black 2007 Dodge Charger, trying to be on time while not getting a speeding ticket. For me, that is pretty much a contradiction in terms.

Just this morning, on my way to the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids, I came flying around a curve when I saw the sheriff's car, too late. He immediately pulled me over. His first words were, "Good morning Mr. Roumel. I remember giving you a ticket here last June."

Thanks for the memory, Trooper Clarke. And the reduction from that ridiculously high number I was posting.

I was late after all to my scheduling conference, which lasted all of 1/2 hour, just like the one last year when I first met Trooper Clarke. These hearings in Grand Rapids are getting awfully expensive.

From there it was straight to Mt. Pleasant, along one of the prettiest drives I've made in Michigan, straight west from Reynolds to Alma via Edmore. I passed a lot of farmland and, incongruously, a Greek deli near Reynolds. (Took me five paragraphs to mention food!) Unfortunately, the hand-lettered note on the door read, "Closed due to family matter." So lunch was yesterday's leftover pizza with a Diet Coke, eaten while driving, trying to not get any on my suit.

Checked into a hotel in Mt. Pleasant. Not the casino, though I was fleetingly tempted, until remembering I have to prepare for two days worth of depositions. One of the things I like to do when traveling is to check for hotel and restaurant reviews. I've learned to read between the lines and get a fair sense of the place, disregarding the criticisms based on a person's unique bad experience, such as "there was a loud party in the next room so we asked Agnes at the front desk for a free upgrade, but she refused and was rude."

Restaurant reviews are a bit trickier. People actually go on line to rate chain restaurants, which baffles me. I enjoy scouting out locally owned places for dinner, and generally have a good experience. Michigan has some fine regional and ethnic cuisine, and even when I am misled by the internet, I can still come away satisfied. For example, where I expected to find a Middle Eastern restaurant in Saginaw, I instead found only a grocery store. The proprietor of Yasmeen's Mediterranean, a Lebanese fellow who'd worked for 22 years in Greektown, urged me inside even though he was closing. He loaded me up with goodies - stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanouj, hummus, tabbouleh, and bean salad--all about half the price it would have cost me in Ann Arbor. That was about four delicious meals for me.

Other gems I found in Saginaw: the popular Intermission Deli - with a line out the door for fresh subs on home baked bread--and the Kabob N Curry House, fiery, flavorful, and filling Indian food.

In Grand Rapids, where I never ceased to be impressed by the art and architecture, I found a chic, new boutique hotel right downtown called City Flats, less expensive than the bigger established hotels. I was introduced to the dazzling Marie Catrib's by local counsel, and have enjoyed the Sundance Grill for a bountiful brunch. I am also told I must try the creative burger toppings at O'Toole's, but I've barely scratched the surface here. (Trip Advisor counts 433 restaurants in Grand Rapids.)

Traverse City is another location that I seem to visit often, but eat in too rarely. When I do, I often find myself in the reliable North Peak Brewing Company, but have been urged to visit Trattoria Stella, located in an old mental hospital.

Battle Creek was a bit trickier, as I was on the run; but a quick pit stop led me past the Red Line BBQ, and the aromas and line out the door led me to vow a return trip--next time, to actually sample the food. (Barbeque is a whole 'nother topic, and except for a shout out to Detroit's legendary Slow's, I'll leave that for another column.)

One of my cases has me returning to the Clare/Farwell area, where the Cops & Doughnuts bakery is garnering wide attention, not just for the faux police station décor and uniforms, but their scrumptious goodies.

As I log more miles and locations, I'll update this list. It's always nice to find familiar faces and be recognized on the return trips. Just ask my friend Trooper Clarke.

Nick Roumel is an attorney with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a law firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation.

He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine.

He can be reached at: nroumel

Published: Thu, Apr 12, 2012